PageTurners: Manifesting Black Joy Across All Genres

PageTurners: Manifesting Black Joy Across All Genres

Floating in a Most Peculiar Way; Blood Grove; Muted
Floating in a Most Peculiar Way; Blood Grove; Muted
Image: HMH Books, Little, Brown and Company, Scholastic
It's Lit!It's Lit!Where all things literary live at The Root

Black literature is something to be celebrated year-round but during this month of socially distanced debauchery, Black authors have set us bookworms up for success. On only the second day of February, many authors pulled out all of the stops and have given us memoirs, short stories, debut novels and untold stories.

Journal prompts and guided meditations help tackle internalized racism and trauma in Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy by Rachel Ricketts, and letters written to Vice President Kamala Harris by people across the world compiled by Peggy Brooks-Bertram in Dear Kamala: Women Write to the New Vice President.

Collections of short stories by Brontez Purnell and Dantiel W. Moniz explore growth, learning and family through unique lenses and perspectives that those with similar experiences can delve deep into, and others can learn from.

Walter Mosley’s newest and much-anticipated Easy Rawlins mystery, Blood Grove (which he recently referenced on our It’s Lit Podcast) is a hilarious and harrowing tale about family, crime and trauma. The also gripping How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones focuses on the effects of folklore on a community in Baxter’s Beach, Barbados.

When it comes to Black books, plenty explore racism and racial disparities, oppression, trauma and hardship, but in tandem with this year’s Black History Month theme here at The Root, many of this week’s new literary releases focus on joy across all genres.

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100 Boyfriends – Brontez Purnell (Fiction)

100 Boyfriends – Brontez Purnell (Fiction)

100 Boyfriends, Brontez Purnell
100 Boyfriends, Brontez Purnell
Image: FSG Originals

100 Boyfriends, a collection of short stories, explores the romance––or lack thereof––and brutally honest truth of what it means to be broke, black and queer. The intimate yet hilarious chapters take place across a variety of settings, including abandoned warehouses, gentrified bars and even fields in Alabama. Each character is searching for a sense of belonging in a world that constantly pushes them aside. Told through four sections––three main chapters and an epilogue––Brontez delves into the darkest corners of queer identity and exposes the frenzied and compassionate relationships ingrained in LGBT+ culture.


February 2, 2021, FSG Originals

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Blood Grove – Walter Mosley (Mystery)

Blood Grove – Walter Mosley (Mystery)

Blood Grove, Walter Mosley
Blood Grove, Walter Mosley
Image: Little, Brown and Company

Set in California in 1969, Easy Rawlins, a Black private detective, lands his first case at his agency’s newest office. A white Vietnam veteran stumbles in and asks for help while telling a convoluted story, and despite initial hesitation, Easy agrees. But the troubling case isn’t the only thing occupying Easy’s mind as family members show up unannounced, women go missing and the ever-present fear of losing someone important looms. Blood Grove is a race against time through a sea of varied California characters and constant friends as Easy tries to untangle a case, revealing darkest desires and sincerest calls for justice by whatever means necessary.


February 2, 2021, Little, Brown and Company

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Dear Kamala: Women Write to the New Vice President – Peggy Brooks-Bertram (Editor), Arlette Miller Smith (Foreword by) (Nonfiction)

Dear Kamala: Women Write to the New Vice President – Peggy Brooks-Bertram (Editor), Arlette Miller Smith (Foreword by) (Nonfiction)

Dear Kamala: Women Write to the New Vice President, Peggy Brooks-Bertram (Editor), Arlette Miller Smith (Foreword by)
Dear Kamala: Women Write to the New Vice President, Peggy Brooks-Bertram (Editor), Arlette Miller Smith (Foreword by)
Image: Red Lightening Books

On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris was the first woman to be sworn in as Vice President of the United States of America. Editor Peggy Brooks-Bertram, author and editor of Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women Write to the New First Lady (2009) has collected heartfelt and moving letters from women of all ages, races and nationalities, showcasing them in Dear Kamala: Women Write to the New Vice President.

Seeing a model of themselves in arguably the second most powerful position in United States government, women and girls from all over the world penned letters with advice, questions and support for Vice President Harris inspired by her victory. Filled with stories about racial injustices suffered, climate change, and tales from civil rights activists, Dear Kamala offers more than just words of encouragement, but a call to action and pledge of solidarity by women worldwide.


February 2, 2021, Red Lightning Books

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Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy – Rachel Ricketts (Nonfiction)

Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy – Rachel Ricketts (Nonfiction)

Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy, Rachel Ricketts
Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy, Rachel Ricketts
Image: Simon and Schuster

In a world plagued by racism and racial injustice, Rachel Ricketts offers a comprehensive call-to-action in guidebook form, illustrating how to engage in mindfulness-based practices to fight white supremacy within our personal lives and our communities. Do Better provides steps to practicing daily intentional and informed radical racial justice and demands also addressing the violence perpetuated towards ourselves. Do Better gives readers a guide to manifesting sustainable practices and tools to fight racial disparities through carefully curated activities aimed at mending the soul, body and mind. Each exercise is culturally informed, consisting of secular spiritual exercises such as guided meditation, journaling prompts, and breathwork, all aimed to unpack privilege, fight oppression and offer tools that help transform mindset along the way.


February 2, 2021, Simon and Schuster

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Floating in a Most Peculiar Way – Louis Chude-Sokei (Memoir)

Floating in a Most Peculiar Way – Louis Chude-Sokei (Memoir)

Floating in a Most Peculiar Way, Louis Chude-Sokei
Floating in a Most Peculiar Way, Louis Chude-Sokei
Image: HMH Books

Louis Chude-Sokei, son of a renowned leader of the short-lived African nation of Biafra, didn’t understand the importance of his birth status until a man, visiting his home in Jamaica, sunk to his knees and asked: “Is this the boy? Is this him?”

Chude-Sokei’s understanding of the politics of race and belonging across the African diaspora goes off the rails when his mother uproots him from his life in Jamaica and takes him back to Inglewood, California to live with her. This new life is like a crash landing on Earth. Anything “out of place” or “alien,” put him in danger, and his yearning to become Black in America becomes deeply convoluted. Ultimately, it is a collection of people from across all of his converging identities that help him navigate not just Blackness, but his Blackness in America.

February 2, 2021, HMH Books

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How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House: A Novel – Cherie Jones (Fiction)

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House: A Novel – Cherie Jones (Fiction)

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House: A Novel, Cherie Jones
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House: A Novel, Cherie Jones
Image: Little, Brown and Company

All of her life, Lala had been warned by her grandmother, Wilma, to never go into the tunnels of Baxter’s Beach, Barbados. When Lala is young, Wilma tells her the cautionary tale of the one-armed sister, a story of what happens to girls who disobey their mothers and grandmothers and venture into the tunnels anyway.

The quiet beach life Lala lives once she has grown crumbles when Adan, her husband and a petty criminal, attempts to rob one of the beach mansions—only to be derailed and faced with a chain of events with terrible consequences. With two men driven to the tunnels, a woman torn between two worlds and incapacitated by grief, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is a visceral and intimate portrayal of the intersectionality of race and class in a rapidly changing town.


February 2, 2021, Little, Brown and Company

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Love Is a Revolution – Renée Watson (Young Adult)

Love Is a Revolution – Renée Watson (Young Adult)

Love Is a Revolution, Renée Watson
Love Is a Revolution, Renée Watson
Image: Bloomsbury

All love is revolutionary, no matter whether it’s romantic, platonic, or simply for yourself. Nala Robertson was very content spending the summer on her couch watching television but instead finds herself attending activist meetings and social justice events after telling a few white lies to a new boy she likes in order to impress him. Tye Brown, the emcee at Nala’s cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday party is perfect, and Nala finds herself wanting to do everything in her power to impress him––including lying about herself. As they get closer and the lies get harder to keep up with, Nala learns just how hard romantic love is, but how revolutionary self-love can be, too. In Love Is a Revolution, plus-size girls always get the guy and popular girls aren’t vindictive, providing a safe space to dive into what it means to be a teenager discovering all of the aspects of love.


February 2, 2021, Bloomsbury

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Milk Blood Heat – Dantiel W. Moniz (Fiction)

Milk Blood Heat – Dantiel W. Moniz (Fiction)

Milk Blood Heat, Dantiel W. Moniz
Milk Blood Heat, Dantiel W. Moniz
Image: Grove Press

Dantiel W. Moniz’s debut short story collection Milk Blood Heat depicts the intergenerational lives of Floridians in stories that explore human connection, race, womanhood, inheritance and the ever-present darkness that looms within. Each story delves into the seemingly ordinary worlds of young girls, women and men right as they are confronted with explosive moments of personal reckoning, shedding light on the nature of family, faith and forgiveness. Among the stories are a thirteen-year-old meditating on sadness as she compares herself to her white best friend, a woman unable to let go of a terrible tragedy, a teenager accused of conspiring with the devil and more, each facing the troubling realities that shape them.


February 2, 2021, Grove Press

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The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation – Anna Malaika Tubbs (Nonfiction)

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation – Anna Malaika Tubbs (Nonfiction)

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation, Anna Malaika Tubbs
The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation, Anna Malaika Tubbs
Image: Flatiron

Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little, mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin, respectively, were forced to contend with the fear and prejudices of Jim Crow as Black women. When their sons were born, each instilled their knowledge, hoping to help them survive in a world that denied their humanity from the beginning of their existence. Using strength and conviction gained from their own childhoods, the three women compelled important conversations with their children, pushing them towards greatness with a demand for the dignity and respect they deserved. The Three Mothers examines the lives of these three women, their similarities and differences and how each represents a piece of history left untold in this long-overdue celebration of Black motherhood.


February 2, 2021, Flatiron Books

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Muted – Tami Charles (Young Adult)

Muted – Tami Charles (Young Adult)

Muted, Tami Charles
Muted, Tami Charles
Image: Scholastic

Muted, follows seventeen-year-old Denver and her best friends, Dali and Shak, as they navigate the music and entertainment world as young Black women. After being granted an audience with the legendary Sean “Mercury” Jones, the girls grab hold of the dreams he offers and don’t let go. But their dreams are wrapped in a thin veil of pain, lies and deceit, which is perfectly fine with Denver—until it’s not. Based on the author’s own experiences and further inspired by victim accounts from the current music industry, Muted looks into the ongoing abuse of young women of color in the entertainment industry and the strength it takes to fight back.


February 2, 2021, Scholastic

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This Close To Okay – Leesa Cross-Smith (Fiction)

This Close To Okay – Leesa Cross-Smith (Fiction)

This Close To Okay, Leesa Cross-Smith
This Close To Okay, Leesa Cross-Smith
Image: Grand Central Publishing

Brought together at an inopportune time, two strangers, Tallie and Emmett, meet on a rainy night in October. Tallie, a recently divorced therapist, spots Emmett standing on a bridge as she’s driving by, and does all she can to get him to come down, including welcoming him into her home. Trying to keep him comfortable and safe, Tallie resists telling him of her profession. This Close to Okay alternates between Tallie and Emmett’s perspectives; Tallie slowly progresses towards the truth of what brought Emmett to the bridge, all the while exposing her own secrets, pushing them to understand why they need each other.


February 2, 2021, Grand Central Publishing

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